The Trade Union Congress, TUC, and the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, have told the federal government to pay civil servants reasonable wages to end corruption among Nigerian workers.
The TUC and NLC tabled their concerns at the National Policy Dialogue on Living Wages and Corruption in Nigeria, organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria in collaboration with Micheal Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, held at the ICPC’s headquarters in Abuja.
Speaking on the sidelines of the event, the President of the Trade Union Congress, Comrade (Engr) Festus Osifo, who was represented by the First Deputy President, TUC, Dr Tommy Etim, condemned the attack on the NLC’s President, Joe Ajaero, describing it as a ‘crime against humanity’.
He said, “The attack on the NLC President is not acceptable, we are not operating under a military regime, even if it was the worst military government, such thing will never take place.
“We felt so disappointed that the government and even the police paid by taxpayer money can supervise and witness such inhumanity and keep quiet. As I speak, no government official has come out to officially condemn such acts. It’s sad”.
Speaking further, he emphasized the need for the federal government to pay their workers well and make provisions for their basic needs, which he noted would drive productivity in the country.
Etim stated emphatically, “As we are preparing to go into negotiations of the national minimum wage, this policy dialogue has set a good pedestal for discussions. The takeaway is very clear, that there’s hope for a living wage, but other basic needs of the worker should be taken into consideration.
“We look at areas of health, education, transportation and housing, it goes to show that you can give a living wage, but if these areas are not taken into consideration it’s like giving nothing.
“How do we think that the worker can pay his house rent, children’s school fees, and housing without a living wage? And if a living wage is paid without also because there should be free and compulsory education from primary to university, you’re not giving any living wage.
“If you’re giving a living wage without taking cognisance of the transportation situation in the country and the health of Nigerian workers, you are not giving any living wage. Look at today, our minimum wage is not up to 30 dollars.
“The living wage and minimum wage are two things in opposite directions but there’s that nexus that the living wage will bring about productivity. I call on the Nigerian government to make our workers productive, the living wage is very important”.
Poor wages fuelling corruption — NLC
On the part of the Nigeria Labour Congress, its President, Joe Ajaero, said poor wages are a major factor fuelling corruption in Nigeria and that it is the right and privilege of all civil servants to earn decent wages.
Ajaero, ably represented by the Development Economist, NLC, Hauwa Mustapha, noted that a decent wage should take prominence in governance.
He said, “When you refuse to pay workers their living wage and minimum wage, even as basic as it is, when you deny workers their rights and make them live like slaves in their own country, that by itself is corruption, especially in a situation when the politicians are living so large as though we don’t go to the same market.
“Workers have the right to a decent wage, and even to protest when they don’t feel comfortable with what is happening in their work spaces. A decent wage is pivotal to productivity and human capital development. A decent wage is being realistic to the reality of living.
“Decent wage must address and align with the expectations of our everyday life. Expectations in terms of education for our children, housing and health services. The decent wage for us is very important, it’s at the core of what we struggle for, it’s what should be the pivot of good governance”.
Corruption from poor living wages costly to Nigeria — ICPC
Speaking in the same vein, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, said corruption that emanates from poor living wages holds dire consequences for Nigeria.
The retired Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, said that research has shown that widespread corruption in the public service creates corruption- enabling social norms that make public servants and citizens normalise the expectation and acceptance of bribes while carrying out their statutory duties.
He said, “This practice, where public servants demand (expect and ask) or are supplied (offered and accept) bribes increases the cost of accessing public services for citizens and is partly motivated and sustained by inadequate living wages and the rising cost of living. The corruption that results from poor living wages, comes at a cost to all of society.
“For example, the people are denied quality access to public goods and services, while the government is unable to provide quality and timely goods and services to the people. This has far-reaching effects on the nation: from undermining trust in the government to perpetuating poverty and income inequality and even fostering general insecurity.
“Within this context, there exists a direct relationship between poor living wages and corruption which then indicates that low wages can make the workforce susceptible to corruption. It is on this basis that today’s dialogue expects from us all, ideas, practical steps and policy recommendations that will enable the government to develop a balanced and applicable wage bill policy for the country, especially because the representatives here present, are drawn from a wide array of relevant interest groups across different sectors”.
By Fortune Eromosele
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